Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Patronising Africa (Again)

I have spent some time skimreading the report of the Commission for Africa,
Our Common Interest, and taking a hard look at the core chapters. The whole thing is downloadable here. I find the tone of report patronising in the extreme and the substantive recommendations to be little more than a thoroughgoing restatement of the usual "developmental" palliatives: governance and capacity-building; peace and security; investing in people; growth and poverty reduction; fairer trade. Fine words that mean very little in the context of a comprehensive model that embeds market dependence at every turn. Some commentators have picked up on the report's criticisms of institutions such as the IMF and World Bank as evidence that a new post-Washington Consensus is emerging, one that is more finely attuned to the real needs of Africa's people and is genuinely reformist. We should reject this argument. In fact, as is well known, both Bretton Woods institutions have been working hard over the last few years to frame an even more intrusive approach to capitalist development that focuses on social, political, cultural and institutional change as well as a continued commitment to "sound macro-economic principles". Our Common Interest is entirely consistent with this revised neoliberal agenda. And as almost everyone is aware, nearly all African people today are considerably poorer than they were twenty years ago precisely as a result of the consistent application of neoliberal austerity measures. Now the great and the good of the Commission want to extend and intensify these oppressive conditions.

Raj over at Class Worrier calls the report "this vile little document". Here's a flavour:

Tony Blair's Commission for Africa is a bunch of wank....

Actually, it's a great deal worse. It's precisely the kind of unctious toss that we've expected to spurt from Labour's glands. And, now that they've released this sticky little report, we can only hope that Blair will roll over, fart, and go to sleep. Not likely that he will though. More than anything, the Commission for Africa looks like it's a manifesto for yet more fiddling about with Africa, once again in the name of 'development'....

Couldn't have put it better myself.


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